Apple slates September 12 event, hints at iPhone 5

Zero details, but analyst expects larger screen, LTE, more powerful processor

Apple has announced a September 12 event in San Francisco to unveil its newest iPhone.

Invitations to the media and analysts went out Tuesday for the long-expected event next week, and hinted at the likely name for the iPhone refresh.

"It's almost here," the invitation read.

The invite was typically terse, composed of those three words and a graphic showing a large numeral "12" that cast a shadow resembling the number "5." Unlike last year's invitation, today's did not mention the iPhone by name. Historically, Apple has been coy about the topics of the events it calls on short notice.

Most experts have pegged the next model as the "iPhone 5," the same label they figured would be used last year. Then, Apple fooled the prognosticators by dubbing the 2011 version as "iPhone 4S."

"Oh, I think they gave in to demand," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, about the likelihood of the new model being named iPhone 5. "It's already cost them."

Gottheil was referring to the short-lived backlash last fall by customers and bloggers disappointed that Apple pegged that year's model as the iPhone 4S when a more aggressive upgrade had been expected.

Because of Apple's secrecy, which CEO Tim Cook said earlier this year had been "doubled down," little is definitively known about the iPhone 5. Speculation has mounted, as it usually does before an Apple product launch, and has focused on a larger screen and a more powerful processor.

"Some of the leaks are accurate," said Gottheil. "We'll see a considerably larger screen with the same width, a reasonable hand-holding width. And I think Apple will improve the antennas. The iPhone has a reputation as an awesome device but a mediocre phone."

Also in the cards, said Gottheil, were a more powerful SoC, or System on a Chip, the Apple-designed silicon; a slimmer docking port; and support for the faster LTE data networks that carriers have rolled out with varying degrees of success.

Apple debuted LTE support in this year's iPad.

"And although it's a long shot, they may also include some kind of biometric security," speculated Gottheil.

In July, Florida-based AuthenTec, known for its fingerprint sensors embedded into notebooks and mobile phones, said Apple was acquiring the company for just over $356 million. AuthenTec stockholders will vote Oct. 4 on the merger proposal.

"It's a long shot, because I don't think it's ready for the iPhone," Gottheil explained. "To work, it needs to be both pretty darn secure and pretty darn consistent."

The Cupertino, Calif. company is also expected to launch iOS 6, the next version of its mobile operating system, alongside the Sept. 12 debut of the iPhone 5. Apple first revealed iOS 6 in June at its annual developers conference.

Among the features expected in iOS 6 are an Apple-created mapping service -- Google's Maps will no longer appear as the default -- and improvements to the Siri voice-activated digital assistant.

The putative iPhone 5 event will take place at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, where Apple has staged several product launches, most recently for the new iPad in March. The iPhone launch is to kick off at 10 a.m. PT.

iMore.com, the website that in July first claimed Apple would introduce a new iPhone on Sept. 12, said then that the company would begin selling the device Friday, Sept. 21.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

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Gregg Keizer

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